Edinburgh International Science Festival

Edinburgh International Science Festival

This year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival promises an explosive day out, whatever your age, finds Anna Millar

Science is neither just for school kids, nor for stuffy academics – at least that’s the message at this year’s annual Edinburgh science jamboree. The festival is seeking to rouse the interest of people in their late teens and early 20s, as well as the youngsters, by expanding its programme of events to include some truly spectacular demonstrations. ‘It’s a show stopping line-up,’ says festival director Simon Gage. ‘Whether it’s watching a cow autopsy, climbing into a giant artery or laughing at a night of stand-up, this festival lets you rip the white coat off science to reveal the bizarre, the intriguing and the occasionally mind blowing.’

Showcasing more than 220 events over 14 days, the programme covers a lot of ground, answering a few puzzling questions along the way. There are events to explore human, animal and machine intelligence, discover how robots play football or learn about the psychology of comedy. And Gage is keen to emphasise that they will appeal to more than just the science geeks. ‘It’s not for any one type of person, even people with just a passing interest in science can really enjoy this … As much as possible it’s about mixing it up and using entertainment to really help people think outside the box.’

Highlights from the biology side include ‘ER’, which will allow children to scrub in as doctors and nurses and includes a Blood Bar where they can touch a real heart, and ‘What Scientists are Made Of’, where visitors can build their own virus. For those interested in the workings of the brain, comedian Robin Ince will appear at the Jam House to wax lyrical about what makes people funny, while at Seven Deadly Sins, audiences can look at the psychology of sinning and examine the neuroscience of what determines behaviour. Out at Edinburgh Zoo festival-goers can head to an Enrichment Workshop and learn about the natural behaviours of animals.

List favourites Grid Iron also get in on the act with Huxley’s Lab, presenting a specially commissioned piece exploring genetic perfection, while, at the ‘Seven Wonders of the Solar System’ event, TV physicist Brian Cox introduces a screening of his show Wonders of the Solar System. For more sobre, but no less enthralling, entertainment, the selection of talks this year includes Richard Dawkins on Darwin and natural selection and Raj Persaud hosting an event entitled ‘The Psychiatrist’s Chair’.

‘We want people to come away educated and inspired,’ says Gage. ‘If we’ve done that, then the festival has served its purpose.’

The Edinburgh International Science Festival, various venues, Edinburgh, Sat 3–Sat 17 Apr. www.sciencefestival.co.uk

Huxley's Lab

A site specific work by Grid Iron and Lung Ha's Theatre Company (who give performance opportunities to actors with learning difficulties) about eugenics.

Wonders of the Solar System

  • 2010
  • UK
  • 1h
  • 12A

Professor Brian Cox explores seven wonders of the solar system including fountains of ice that erupt thousands of feet into space, and mysterious lakes filled with a liquid unlike anything known to man.

In the Psychiatrists Chair

Dr Raj Persaud consultant psychiatrist investigates the brilliant mind of Paul Dirac, British physicist and a founder of quantum physics.

Seven Deadly Sins

What makes for a sinner? Which sin do you indulge in the most? Pride, greed, lust, sloth, anger and gluttony – we’ve all been guilty of at least one of these at some time.

There is grandeur in this view of life

Richard Dawkins demonstrates why Charles Darwin was in no doubt that evolution by natural selection was a theory of awe-inspiring wonder and beauty.